The Choice Fruit

Matthew 7: 15 – 20

Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears bad fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits. 

Jesus spends a rather significant amount of time explaining this problem with false prophets so it is probably wise for us to attempt to comprehend the fullness of the problem he perceived. First, these false people will come dressed in sheep’s clothing. What does that mean? They will confess to be Christians. They will even be many who are in Christian leadership positions. So, if they go to church every Sunday and Wednesday, carry their Bible, and sing in the choir how are you going to know they are wolves who seek to devour you? Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruit” but what is this fruit he keeps talking about? We need to look at Galatians 5: 22 for the answer. Paul wrote, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Now appreciating that none of us is yet perfect still we should as a matter of course be demonstrating these character traits.  

First of all, I would strongly recommend that you not take advice from a person who is not demonstrating these characteristics. Secondly, don’t follow a person or their teachings if this fruit is not demonstrated in their lives. At best they are immature Christians but at worst they are actually agents of Satan sent to deceive God’s people. You are going to find elders whose fruit is rotten and even ordained ministers but Jesus has forewarned us so that we need not stumble over these people.  

Do you know someone who is thorny? You cannot get sweet, succulent grapes from him. Jesus is clearly teaching that you cannot get good fruit from a bad tree. If you check the fruit and the fruit is bad, then the tree is bad for “every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears bad fruit”. Hear this well!   If a person (the tree) is not consistently demonstrating love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control as the expression of who he is, then he is a bad tree. If you eat of this tree you will be poisoned and will suffer, even die from it. I know this may sound a bit hard but Jesus spent so much time emphasizing this point because he knew that there would be people in our sphere of influence who attempt to lead us astray and if we get led off of the path of Jesus there is nothing out there but death. So because someone says he is Christian or just because they can quote scripture means nothing. Satan quoted scripture to Jesus. That didn’t make him a Godly influence.

I must tell you the rest of the story even at the risk of ruffling your feathers, but don’t get mad at me for telling you the truth because I know that only the truth will set you free and I care about you. Notice specifically what the fruits of the Spirit are. At the same time, note what they are not. The fruit is not donating to the food drive, working at the homeless shelter, organizing the bake sale or even going on mission trips. Those are all wonderful and we wish that everyone would participate. The truth, though, is that all of those things are external. They are just acts and can be forced and contrived. The fruit that Jesus is speaking of is that which issues from the heart and cannot be faked or covered up. An impatient, unkind person can do all of the right things but have a black heart. Jesus did not call us to be doers of works but rather followers of him, behaving as he behaved. He only gave us one command; love one another as he loved and if you look at the fruit of the Spirit you will recognize at once that all of the enumerated fruits issue from love. That is Christianity; that is the Christian way, so do not follow anyone who is not operating in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control nor take their advice. Otherwise you will find trouble. 

Following a Decoy

John 3: 1 – 2

Nicodemus … said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”

Beware; lest you be led astray. We are to follow fruit rather than signs. People will come, false prophets, empowered through the enemy by a perversion of God’s spiritual laws and will lead away many. People will follow these false prophets unto death. Jesus warned us of this saying, “False Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24: 24). You see, they will lead away the uninitiated but their higher purpose is to deceive and hence, mislead the elect, the chosen. That is you and me.

Jesus came is signs and wonders and we should do the same. Signs testify of Jesus. We are to lay hands on the sick so that they recover, cast out demons, raise the dead and all the rest. As a matter of fact, Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father” (John 14: 12). We are actually supposed to see greater works at our hands than even those Jesus performed. I know that sounds like heresy but Jesus is the one who said it so take it up with him. So, I am not arguing against signs and wonders, far from it. I want you to be the point of origin for amazing signs and wonders but I do not want you to follow signs and miracles in order to follow Jesus because there will be counterfeit prophets who will penetrate even our innermost sanctum. We are to follow fruit.

If you would follow a person, follow their advice or their teaching then first look to their life. Are they givers? If they are not, stop right there. You need no other evidence. They are either of the enemy’s camp or they are immature Christians. You cannot follow God, be like God and have God expressing Himself within you without becoming a giver personally. It just cannot happen because God is foremost generous in His giving. Most of us know John 3: 16. What does it say? “For God so loved the world, that He gave ….”  

We want to follow people who are following God. In his first letter to the church at Corinth Paul made one of the boldest statements of the New Testament. He said, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11: 1). Amazing! He was making this point that we follow those whose life is buried in Christ. I am not saying that you are looking for someone who is perfect but I do think we need to emulate people who are emulating Christ and that it is those people from whom we should draw advice and whose teaching we should follow with our eyes ever upon Jesus and that we will know these people by their fruit.

(See also: Matthew 7: 15, Matthew 24: 11, Mark 13: 22 and Luke 6: 26)